When you are writing up your resume it can become quite tempting to really embellish your previous experience, accomplishments, and achievements. You really should avoid doing so, as even if you don’t get the job, it can raise expectations for performance and capability, and you may find that you are unable to deliver.
That’s not the main reason that you should watch what you put on your resume, however, though it certainly is a good one. A question that I am often asked is “how much experience is too much? What does it take to become “over qualified?” Every time I think about that phrase I have to laugh. Over qualified – what does that really mean, anyway?
When I am reviewing a resume, their previous work experience is the last thing that I look at. Firstly, I scan for any obvius erors- If I find any the resume is garbage right off of the bat. If you can’t take the time to check for any spelling or grammatical errors, I’m not going to take the time to read it. This is more a statement of personal pride and accomplishment, and I feel that it also reflects attention to detail and personal capability. However, that is beside the point.
When I see a resume that has a lot of prior work experience, I am more concerned with the time frame and length of time spent at each job than I am the number of jobs. If the applicant is young and they have a list of previous jobs that’s a mile long, I obviously approach their resume with a bit of caution. My main concern is deciding whether or not I will be able to believe that the applicant will become a long standing part of my organization, as opposed to making their employment a short term experience.
Prior Experience and Your Resume
I wouldn’t recommend more than three or four targeted work experience listings on your resume, though it is ultimately your discretion. By targeted, I mean previous work experience that is directly (or even indirectly) related to the position that you are applying for. Having previous work experience that is entirely unrelated may be good to show commitment if you were with that company for a while, but that would be the only situation where I would recommend it.
If you are applying for a management position, for example, chances are good that your previous experience as a construction laborer will do little to establish capability in a management setting. However, previous experience as a restaurant server and retail sales associate are both applicable. A restaurant server has to manage multiple tasks and priorities at once, whereas a retail sales associate has to interact with customers and other employees all day. Both positions are not directly related to management, but they are indirectly related (waiter for skills, sales for customer service).
Remember, the more you target your resume, the better your response is likely to be. Customizing your resume for a specific position is akin to placing a big “I’m worth your time” sticker on your forehead.
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